Local author advocates for preservation | VailDaily.com

Local author advocates for preservation

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Bud Knapp's first trip to Vail was prompted by an Architectural Digest assignment in the 1960s. Ten years later he returned to ski with his wife and business partner, Betsy. That trip changed the course of their lives.

Soon after, the couple discovered a special place called Lake Creek, nestled west of Vail at the foot of cascading mountains and surrounded by pristine nature.

Flash forward nearly 40 years, and Knapp recalls his journey in the landscape in "Living Beneath the Colorado Peaks," a large-format coffee table book that tells the story of Knapp Ranch, a leader in sustainable farming, craftmanship and western living. Along with contributors Sarah Chase Shaw and Todd Winslow Pierce, Knapp will speak and sign books on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at The Bookworm of Edwards.

"Living here, we developed a deep appreciation for Mother Nature," Bud Knapp said. "As we built a life here at Knapp Ranch, we became much more aware of our surroundings and how the climate was changing. We wanted to turn our appreciation for Mother Nature into action."

Beetle kill

Action at Knapp Ranch included forming a partnership with the US Forest Service.

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"We cleared out the beetle killed trees, our little kitchen garden evolved into farming at 9,000 feet, and we began collecting and sharing the climate change data we gathered at the ranch," Knapp said. "Living here has increased our awareness of the land around us and the responsibility we have to care for it."

Committed to sustainability at the farm, the Knapps began methodically studying their land. They learned from architects and designers, local builders and craftsmen, landscape architects, ecologists and water managers.

"We realized that we wanted to preserve this valley as much as we could," Knapp said. "We eliminated any possibility of developing the estate or the land beyond what it is today. We evaluated its use and how we could give back to society and the citizenry; education became the obvious choice," says Knapp.

Showcasing their work in the remote mountain landscape became important to share the knowledge of sustainable living with the Vail Valley and other mountain towns. Throughout the process of creating the book with author Sarah Chase Shaw and photographer Todd Winslow Pierce, understanding the process continued to shift and change.

"Betsy Knapp once said to me 'Being on the cutting edge happens because you see it,'" said co-author Shaw. "Betsy and Bud were on the cutting edge of ideas, of art, architecture, culture and business for their entire careers. Their desire to document a process and to share it with other people isn't just about showing the next best thing: it's about sharing ideas gathered over a lifetime."

"'Living Beneath the Colorado Peaks' is as much an advocacy book about responsible land use as it is a book about sharing the experience of building an extraordinary home in a beautiful Colorado landscape," she says.